A Soldiers” Fair

by Lori Eggleston. 0 Comments

//   The 150 th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam was this past Monday, September 17.  During the battle, the Pry House served as the headquarters for General George B. McClellan, and the barn was used as a field hospital.  It was only fitting for the Pry House Field Hospital Museum to take part in commemorating the anniversary of the battle.  Just for the anniversary weekend, the Pry House was the site of a Soldiers’ Fair which featured living historians, crafters, and artisans.  They helped to give a glimpse into life in the 1860s. 

A view of the battlefield from the Pry House today is much more peaceful than it was 150 years ago! The National Park Service was doing tours and reenactments over the weekend as well. The sounds of the cannons in the background definitely helped to set the mood.   The tents and the reenactors helped to make me feel like I’d been transported back in time.     Sometimes though, I had to overlook some of the modern conveniences in the scenery! The red flag flying from the barn door indicated that it was being used as a hospital.   Some anachronisms can’t be avoided….     The surgeons were positioned just outside the barn to be ready to treat the wounded.   Inside the barn there was a display of a field kit and the medicines which it would have contained.   A Civil War doctor demonstrates how to make opium pills. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the pill sizes were not always uniform, so the dose of medicine the patient received was an approximation.   Would you like to try to extract the bullet from this leg?   The officers set up camp behind the house.   The period crafters and artisans set up their tents in the field in front of the house. There was a wide range of activities and presentations including live music and dancers, quilting, candle dipping, making rag dolls, children’s games, food preservation, embalming, and even doing laundry.   The U.S. Sanitary Commission was also represented. The Sanitary Commission was a private relief agency created in 1861, just after the start of the Civil War. The Sanitary Commission was created to educate the military in matters of health and sanitation in the camps and hospitals. It also staffed field hospitals, raised money, and provided supplies for the soldiers.        Many members of the museum staff participated as well.     Tom, the Superintendent of the Pry House, took advantage of the services of a wet-plate photographer.   Here’s the finished product – Tom looks pretty good for being over 150 years old!   Our Store Manager, Judy, demonstrates how to dip candles.     Kyle, the Director of Interpretation & Programming at the Pry House, gets his head read by a phrenologist. Phrenologists examined the bumps and depressions on a person’s skull because they were thought to be an indication of the person’s personality and character.   Our Executive Director, George, displayed the tools he uses to make period banjos. Notice there are no power tools on the table!          We were also fortunate to be able to borrow a modern armored ambulance from Ft. Detrick.  It was placed next to our Wheeling Ambulance so that people could see how much medical transport has changed.      This is a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Ambulance, also known as an MRAP. Today’s wounded soldiers can be transported off the battlefield in this instead of in a horse-drawn ambulance.   A modern military stretcher has many improvements over the wood and canvas Civil War stretchers!   Setting up a modern stretcher posed some problems for these young reenactors.   Luckily the pros were there to show them how to do it!   A side-by-side view of the old and new ambulances and stretchers.   At the end of the day, everyone pitched in to help move the Wheeling ambulance. Did someone forget to order the horses?!   Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. My entire blog can be viewed at www.guardianoftheartifacts.blogspot.com .  

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